Clockwise from top left: Raoul Peck, Krisha Fairchild, Barry Jenkins and Lorenzo Vigas
Although I saw more films this year than last, it seems I saw fewer, the misperception probably caused by watching too many (one is too many, but logistics factor into the use of links) on relatively small screens (my always calibrated Eizo or the flatscreen TV).
For me, the best film of 2016 is actually two: Barry Jenkins’s exquisite “Moonlight,” a three-part narrative, focusing on the childhood, adolescence and adulthood of a gay African-American man, suffused with visual and emotional beauty, some of it rough, some sublime; and Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann.” Had I not been totally sucked in long before Winfried turns up in a costume out of Bulgarian folklore, I still would have been shaken/moved, the enormous furry creature reminding me of my father’s last gift before his death, a yellow stuffed Seuss character.
These are the others, (mostly) in alphabetic order: “Elle” (
Catherine Breillat Paul Verhoeven), sleek surfaces, erupting violence, Isabelle Huppert, stunning, in one of her two great roles this year; “From Afar” (Lorenzo Vigas), shallowest depth of field, beautiful, and used to great emotional effect;
“I Am Not Your Negro” (Raoul Peck), the searing documentary, examines race in the United States, through James Baldwin’s unfinished project about the civil right movement and the assassination of his friends, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers; “Into the Inferno” (Werner Herzog), an opportunity, while visiting volcanoes around the world, for the great filmmaker to muse on pyroclastic flow, hell, the cosmos, North Korea’s origin story and well, everything. Riveting and gorgeously shot (of course);
“Krisha” (Trey Edward Shults), although I thought the family holiday-celebration-from-hell mini genre, had been thoroughly exhausted, I was wrong. Enormous, ferocious performance by the director’s actress aunt, Krisha Fairchild; “Sierranevada” (Cristi Puiu), at 173 minutes and in Romanian (shown at NYFF54), even its New York distribution prospects might be next to nil, a potential big loss because the film is an enthralling (and often funny) view of physical and emotional claustrophobia, as a family gathers in a widow’s Bucharest apartment, to commemorate her husband, their recently departed patriarch. Puiu is the best (in a very competitive field) of the Romanian New Wave filmmakers.
From the Department of Totally Biased: “Equity” (Meera Menon), glass ceiling, treacherous old boys, big money, beautiful clothes and elegant, chilly interiors, a formidable Anna Gunn. (My shoot with the filmmakers and the film’s investors, all women, was one of my top five favorite shoots of the year.)
And, knowing what I like, I might have included, had I seen: “O.J.: Made in America” (Ezra Edelman), I’m hoping to take up residence on Ryder’s Stone Ridge sofa on 1/1, but I’ve yet to check if we get Viceland here; “Cameraperson” (Kirsten Johnson); “The Fits” (Anna Rose Holmer); and “The Handmaiden” (Park Chan-wook).